Bhopal, June 7: Who killed the protesting farmers in Madhya Pradesh? The answer is still not clear as everyone is trying to pass the buck to each other. In such a tense atmosphere, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the state administration have come up with different versions to complicate the situation further.
While a minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet told the media that "anti-social elements" were behind the shooting episode, a top official said policemen were forced to open fire to control the unruly protesters.
The farmers' protest in the state has left at least six killed and eight others injured in two separate incidents of firing in Mandsaur, around 325-km from the state capital of Bhopal on Tuesday.
The farmers, since June 1, are protesting to demand better prices for their produce and waiver of loans.
Madhya Pradesh home minister Bhupendra Singh told NDTV that the police did not shoot at the crowd in Mandsaur. "There was no firing by the police, an investigation has been launched," he said. "The bullets were shot by anti-social elements," added Singh.
However, a senior official told a totally different 'story' than what the minister shared with the media about the whole incident. Countering his boss, Ujjain Division Commissioner OM Jha told IANS that police personnel opened fire to control the unruly farmers.
"Around 2 pm, in order to control the agitated farmers, the police had to open fire in which two farmers died and several others were injured," Jha said.
Jha's version was echoed by a senior farmer leader. "The police started firing to disperse the crowd. Farmers were not carrying weapons," said Gajendra Tokas of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh, a national farmers' union.
Chief Minister Chouhan alleged that the opposition Congress was behind inciting the farmers to resort to violence. The CM, who is the head of the state since 2005, reiterated that the government stands with the farmers.
"The Congress party has conspired to make this a violent agitation. Congress leaders have been trying to do this... The Mandsaur incident is sad and unfortunate," he said. "Unfortunately, anti-social elements have crept into the agitation," he added.
Meanwhile, CM Chouhan announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore and a job to the next of kin of each dead and Rs five lakh and free treatment to the injured.
"This government is at war with farmers," tweeted Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. According to reports, Rahul is planning to visit Mandsaur on Wednesday to meet the families of the farmers who had died.
Several farmers' associations have called for a state-wide bandh on Wednesday. Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has supported the bandh.